The 12 Most Insane Abandoned Places in Massachusetts
Discarded asylums, graffitied lookouts, shuttered hotels, and other curiosities.
Don’t let the ultra-polished Boston skyline fool you—behind all of that sparkling chrome is a treasure trove of decrepit, crumbling, and cobweb-laden ruins stretching from the tip of Cape Cod to the peaks of the Berkshires. These intriguing destinations span all forms, ranging from decaying concert halls to abandoned navy bunkers, and some of the Bay State’s most macabre ruins come in the form of eerie insane asylums, many of which were established in the 1800s—an age where mental health was sorely misunderstood, to put it extra mildly.
While they may not be the most aesthetically pleasing places to peruse, these dilapidated haunts serve as the perfect gateway for exploring New England’s unseemly past. Hold onto your snapbacks—things are about to get spooky.
Boston Theater District
It would be an understatement to say that Steinert Hall has seen better days. The Beaux Arts-style concert hall served as the crown jewel of Boston’s uber-sophisticated Piano Row District during the early 1900s until new legislation in the wake of the devastating 1942 Cocoanut Grove Fire forced the spot to close its doors for good. The once-palatial auditorium still sits on its original grounds, however, doomed to wither away through decades of neglect.
You won’t find any canine companions in Dogtown—in fact, you won’t find much at all, since this Revolutionary War-era settlement has been empty for the past two hundred years, abandoned by its inhabitants at the turn of the 19th century once Gloucester Harbor became a post-war safe haven. Very little remains of the village today, but visitors should keep their eyes peeled for the Babson Boulders, a collection of 36 rocks adorned with inspirational phrases dating back to the Great Depression.
Weathered by the elements and clad in a thick layer of graffiti, it’s tough to believe that this crumbling tower was once one of Holyoke’s most popular mid-20th century attractions. While it’s certainly lost most of its luster in the modern era, Scott Tower is still worth a visit today thanks to its top deck, a covered lookout point that provides visitors with gorgeous vistas of the surrounding countryside.
The MBTA is home to a network of abandoned train lines, stations, and tracks, including the streetcar loop at Maverick station, the Court Street station (closed in 1952), the lost station at Northeastern, and the abandoned Tremont Street Subway segment. The end of the streetcar era also caused the abandonment and partial demolition of the Green line’s A branch—because, no, the MBTA didn't just skip the first letter of the alphabet in their naming scheme. The A line ran through BU down Brighton Avenue towards Watertown, and some tracks still remain today.
Taunton State Hospital
The majority of Massachusetts State Lunatic Hospitals (thankfully since-renamed) have been leveled, but this one—built to deal with overcrowding at the state mental institution in Worcester—still stands. Most of the crumbling Kirkbride complex was destroyed by fire and demolished in 2010, but many of the newer buildings remain on the campus, along with an underground system of rails for laundry and other maintenance operations.
Hingham Naval Ammunition Depot Annex
This decommissioned military bunker system held ammunition during the World Wars, as well as parts for the Navy’s first nuclear depth charge. As of 2021, most of the bunkers and buildings have been razed and filled in to create hiking trails and park land, but one building, several large wooden barricades, and some railroad tracks have stuck around.
Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center
True fact: this Victorian sanatorium was originally dubbed The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded, horrifically using its over 2,500 residents as test subjects for radiation experiments. There were many reports of serious abuse throughout the institution’s history, and the lack of informed consent for participation in invasive medical procedures was just scratching the surface. And while it continued to operate in a WAY more legit capacity through the 1990s and 2000s, the facility was permanently closed in 2014 due to the rising cost of patient care.
Franklin Park Zoo bear cages
Somewhat removed from the present-day Franklin Park Zoo are the decaying ruins of the zoo’s first exhibit: a bear enclosure—iron bars and all. The site, which opened in 1912, includes a stone staircase decorated with reliefs of bears. So far, the city has no plan to put the space to any use.
Now part of the state's parks system, this quarry produced granite for monuments and commercial buildings up until the 1960s, when it was unceremoniously left to its own devices. Much of the machinery is still in place, from railroad tracks and rusted trucks to specialized quarrying equipment. It’s one of the most visually stunning sites on this list, and it’s free to visit year-round.
Of the Boston Harbor Islands, Lovell’s is often overlooked despite its lovely swimming beach, picnic grounds, and extensive overgrown bunkers. But maybe it’s the creepy history of shipwrecks on the island that gives people the willies… In 1786, a betrothed couple was found dead and clinging to each other after their ship crashed just off the coast. So lest you decide that “Lovers' Rock” sounds like a great date destination, trust us: it’s not.
Kristoff Pig Farm
The Kristoff family’s 600-acre farm cranked out dairy products, corn, apples, and pumpkins throughout the 1950s, all of which went to feed not only the surrounding population, but also their prized pigs. Kristoff pigs were apparently so coveted by pork distributors that there were more pigs in the town of Sterling than humans at one point. Sadly, the farm fell into disrepair, but many of its structures still stand.
This dilapidated South End building once represented the lap of luxury in turn-of-the-century Beantown. The 50-room residential hotel was purchased by the Church of Scientology in 2008, but when the organization wasn’t able to raise enough money to restore it, the hotel changed hands once again—and it’s current owners still aren’t quite sure what to do with it. 2019 saw plans to refurbish the building and convert it into a boutique hotel, but the pandemic’s devastating hit to the hospitality industry has put those plans to rest for the foreseeable future.